The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (426157) Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay, No. 1652 Conversion Unit, RAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.280
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 7 October 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (426157) Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay, No. 1652 Conversion Unit, RAF, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

426157 Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay, No. 1652 Conversion Unit, RAF
Accidental death 29 March 1944
Story delivered 7 October 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay.

Eric Reay was born on 20 January 1922 in Brisbane, one of four children of Eric Alfred and Edna Reay.

Young Eric attended Sherwood State School, and then Queensland Agricultural High School and College. He was a keen tennis player, and also took part in athletics and swimming.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, Reay was a bank clerk at the Union Bank of Australia, and was studying to join the Bankers’ Institute.

All three of the Reay boys enlisted for service during the Second World War, one in the army, one in the navy, and Eric, in the Royal Australian Air Force. He formally enlisted on 23 May 1942, at the age of 20, and was sent to Initial Training School at Kingaroy.

Reay was promoted to the rank of leading aircraftman shortly before attending Air Observers’ School at Cootamundra, and then Bombing and Gunnery School at Evans Head. In January 1943 he was sent to Air Navigation School at Parkes, before being promoted to temporary sergeant.

On 6 March, Reay left Melbourne bound for Britain. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, he was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who, throughout the course of the war, joined Royal Air Force squadrons or Australian squadrons based in Britain.

At the RAF station in West Freugh, Scotland, Reay was promoted to temporary flight sergeant, before being transferred to an operational training unit at Lichfield, north of Birmingham. Later in the year, he joined 1652 Conversion Unit at Marston Moor in Yorkshire.

On 29 March 1944, Flight Sergeant Reay was navigator in a Halifax – a four-engined heavy bomber – which took off from Marston Moor at about 8 pm on a bullseye sortie. This was a night-flying navigation exercise designed to resemble as closely as possible an operational night flight over a ground target. During the flight, the starboard outer propeller blade broke away, and the pilot lost control of the aircraft. It broke up and crashed near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland. All seven crew members died in the accident. They included British Sergeant William Hickson, and the remainder were Australians: Flight Sergeants Keith Caladine, Geoffrey Gooderham, Peter Sinclair, Robert Grosvenor, Ronald Walker – and Eric Reay.

The six Australians, including Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay, were buried at Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Reay’s epitaph reads “He died that men may live / to build a better world.” He was 22 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Sergeant Eric Lascelles Reay, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

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